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"Popular Girls"
Season/Series: 3
Number in season: 8A
Original Airdate: United States November 25, 1998[1]
Canada September 15, 1999[2]
Germany March 4, 2002[3]
Written by: Sandra Willard
Storyboard by: Jeremy O'Neil
"Dad's Dessert Dilemma"
"Buster's Growing Grudge"
Read transcript

"Popular Girls" is the first half of the eighth episode in the third season of Arthur. It was later adapted into the book Arthur and the Popularity Test.


Sue Ellen and Fern take a popularity quiz they find in a magazine for teenagers. They change their personalities to become more likable, but why does it seem that no one likes them anymore?[4]


Arthur tells the viewers that he and his friends are on spring vacation, and during that time they all go to the Community Center for day camp. Arthur's group at the camp, which consists of him, Francine, Fern, and Sue Ellen, performed a version of Shakespeare's "Macbeth". Buster's group presented a look at various antiques, including a Pogo stick (demonstrated by Muffy), Jenna showing how to use a record player, and Brain displaying the way a rotary phone works. Prunella was part of a group with the Tough Customers, and they made clay sculptures. Prunella showed Mr. Ratburn a unicorn while Rattles was still working on his own, Molly made a nose horn, and Binky just pounded on his clay, which splatted in Prunella's face. Prunella wondered how she got caught up in this group.

Arthur tells the viewers that he can't wait for what his group will be doing next. He walks over to the girls, who are crowding around something and laughing. Arthur takes a closer look, and then cries, “Oh no! Not that!”

Popular Girls

Fern, Francine, and Sue Ellen are all shown stowing items in their backpacks for use at camp. At the Read house, Arthur's father asks him if he's really going to be making instruments out of old materials. Arthur tells him that Sue Ellen says it is easy and they should have the best project out of everyone, before heading off to the camp. While riding his bike to the community center, Buster and Brain ride alongside him. Buster asks what the sound is coming from Arthur's bag. Arthur tells them about the musical instruments his group will be making. Buster tells him he's lucky to be in a group with Sue Ellen, because she likes doing cool stuff. Brain explains that Muffy and Jenna want to weave baskets (which the boys find to be disgusting).

Arthur arrives at the camp, which appears to be in an art room of the community center. Fern suggests they read a poem while playing the instruments they will make. Francine shoots down the idea, saying no one will be able to hear them read anything while they're banging on the instruments. Sue Ellen takes out some of the instruments she brought from home to demonstrate what they might be able to construct. Arthur takes a bag of beans, puts them into the can he brought from home and covers it up to create a rudimentary maraca.

Francine discovers she accidentally brought her sister Catherine's bag from home instead of her own, finding several teen magazines inside. Arthur picks one up, “Popular Girl”. The girls rush over to see it, and Fern says it must contain “strange and mysterious articles”. Arthur reads, “Get a prom date in twelve days or less”, then asks what a prom is. None of them seem to know.

Outside, Muffy approaches and asks if they are reading Popular Girl. Arthur quickly denies that he's been reading the magazine, and hands it over to Sue Ellen. Muffy says when she is the right age to understand Popular Girl, she will do everything it says. Brain walks by and briefly mistakes the magazine for the Popular Science periodical, but loses interest after seeing that it is only a girls’ magazine. Fern suggests they all take a "How Likable Are You?" quiz from out of the magazine and Francine agrees, remarking that the questions must be really scientific. The boys roll their eyes and walk off.

Question number one is read out loud: If you were a sandwich, your friends would be: A) potato chips B) diet soda C) the plate or D) Hungry. Arthur comes back and answers A, along with Brain, who also answers A. Buster asks “If we end up eating our friends, do we fail the test?” The gang takes the quiz by a nearby picnic table. While taking it, a gust of wind blows the magazine into the mud, ending the quiz. Francine throws it away in the trash.

At the end of the day, Arthur comments that the test was weird. “Who thinks of their friends as potato chips?” he asks the others. Francine replies that since teenagers think differently than kids, maybe that's how they view things. Arthur thinks this is scary. Francine tells him that sometimes she thinks about being Catherine's age and can't go to sleep for hours.

Fern slyly takes the magazine out of the trash to compare her score. Sue Ellen asks what she's doing, and Fern tells her she wants to see how likeable she is. She asks if Sue Ellen is curious at all. Sue Ellen says she is a little.

At The Sugar Bowl, the girls finish up their scores. Fern scored a twelve, which means she's too quiet and no one can like her because no one knows she's there. She comments it's her worst nightmare. She imagines herself invisible in class with Mr. Ratburn taking attendance.

When he gets to her, Fern says she's here, but Mr. Ratburn doesn't see or hear her, and says she has been absent a lot and he should call her parents. The magazine tells her to be strong, say what's on her mind whether anyone wants to hear her or not.

Sue Ellen takes the magazine for her score, she scored a 125. The test says if you score over 100, you are too good to be true, that she frightens people by her excellence, and tells her to tone it down. Fern comments she is good at everything.

In another daydream Sue Ellen is playing the saxophone flawlessly, bumming the rest of the class that they'll never be as good as her. Arthur says he's frightened by her excellence. Sue Ellen questions why their friends like them. Fern suggests that it's telling the future because it's for teenagers and they must change now.

The next day, the class is learning about karate. Mr. Ratburn calls up Sue Ellen for a demonstration, calling her an expert. Sue Ellen describes she's only “average or less”. Mr. Ratburn calls up Buster, who is frightened to go up against Sue Ellen, but does so.

Quickly, Buster pins down Sue Ellen; he is stunned, but then excited. Fern tells Sue Ellen "it's working." Binky gets up to flip Sue Ellen but calls the victory hollow, as she wasn't trying. Fern gets up, faces Buster, and tells him to take her on.

Buster is shocked, but Fern grabs him, flips him, and throws him across the room to a mat wall. Arthur is shocked that Buster flipped Sue Ellen, but got flipped by Fern.

Buster replies, “I feel like the world has been turned right upside down.” Fern walks with Sue Ellen, telling how everyone is staring at them, meaning they're “likeable”. Sue Ellen groans.

Buster's group is working on a machine, but the material is loose. Brain asks Sue Ellen if she has any ideas to fix it, but she says any ideas they have will be better than hers. Fern snorts at their use of silver and tells them to go with red. Muffy tells them that she's in charge.

At Arthur's group, Francine tells Sue Ellen that she was going to demonstrate how to make “idiotphones”. Sue Ellen corrects her, saying they're called “idiophones”, but then says that's what she thought they were called, and she was “probably wrong.” Arthur asks if what he made is right and Sue Ellen says yes, but when Arthur tries to play it, a rubber band bounces off and knocks a jar of crayons down.

Fern storms in and tells them she's in charge and she is going to read a poem. Francine says if Fern wants to be leader of a group then she should find her own and quits and walks out the door with Arthur. Fern asks if she was strong enough, which Sue Ellen replies “they definitely know you’re there now”.

Out in the gym, Arthur and Francine are trying to be together in their own group, but Francine spills beans, knocking down Arthur. In Muffy's group, Jenna and Brain are tied together in thread, with Buster wrapped up like a mummy.

Muffy blames Sue Ellen for sabotaging them. Muffy trips on the beans and knocks into Jenna and Brain. Prunella tells Binky, who is lying on the ground with his head inside of a big horse's head, to move, because they need to finish their Trojan horse. Binky is still bummed about Sue Ellen taking a fall during her karate spar with him.

Outside, Sue Ellen comments “We’re so good at being likeable, everyone hates us!” Fern wonders why, as they did everything the magazine said, and why they aren't like the happy teenagers in the magazine.

Out walk Francine, Arthur, and Buster. Francine asks if this was all about the magazine. Sue Ellen answers it was because it said they weren't likeable. Buster asks them if it was because they answered with diet soda, as that could have brought their score down.

Francine just calls the magazine goofy. Fern asks them if they think she's too quiet and Sue Ellen asks if she's too good to be true. Arthur and Francine reply “NO!” Fern and Sue Ellen sigh in relief. Arthur asks if they could come in so they could do the projects correctly.

Back inside, Arthur's group is done making their instruments. Sue Ellen helps Buster's group finish their weaving machine. Then she flips Binky, making him thankful he's worth flipping still and finishes his group's project.

When everyone is finished, Muffy asks how she can split up their work as it won't cut. Brain manically replies “success” and laughs. Binky is riding in the horse and shouts “Greeks rule and Trojans drool!” Behind them, Arthur's group is playing their instruments.

Sue Ellen says she can't believe they acted so dumb, and she likes doing what she does. Fern tells her she can't stand telling other people what to do and wonders how anyone can take a test like that seriously.

Back inside, Mr. Ratburn takes a look at the test and scores over 200. He realizes that according to the magazine, Mr. Ratburn actually needs to create more homework assignments than usual!






  • At the end of the 2000 rerun intro on PBS Kids before this episode, Arthur’s crashing sound changes to a big splash of water.
  • All of the kids are shown to have the same green and yellow backpacks, which is rarely shown to be the case in other episodes.
  • During the karate demonstration, Prunella is shown with everyone else despite the fact that she is in 4th grade and therefore not in Mr. Ratburn's class. This error was also carried over for an accompanying illustration in the chapter book based on this episode.
  • Although we seen what happened after Francine got Catherine's book bag, it is unknown what happened to Catherine when she took Francine's book bag.
  • The community center Arthur and his friends are having their day camp at in this episode is shown to be the same building as the Elwood Community Preschool, where D.W. and her friends attend. Regardless, D.W. is absent from this episode, and later episodes show the community center as a separate (and more modern-looking) building.
  • The moral of this episode seems to be not to trust personality tests. However, in Fern's case the magazine was right about her being easily ignored. It just gives bad advice about what to do about it.
  • This is Francine's 100th appearance in the series.

Episode connections[]

  • Someone accidentally takes the wrong backpack in this episode, similar to D.W. taking one of The Tibbles' backpacks in D.W.'s Backpack Mishap.
  • When Jenna demonstrates a record player at the day camp, the kids are all fascinated by seeing one in action, as they were previously shown to not know what a record player is in "Francine Frensky, Superstar", when Mr. Ratburn tells them about Thomas Edison.
  • Muffy's interest in teenage magazines would become its own storyline in "Muffy Gets Mature".

Home Video[]



Main article: Popular Girls/Gallery